The last Vikings
In the back of this collection of stories are a series of family trees and genealogical charts, each with varying degrees of support for their authenticity. The contributions to the family tree came from many sources and vary from the meticulous and professional records offered by our fifth cousin, Alden Marlow Davis, to bare, unsupported assertions posted on the Gendex.com site on the Internet. Where possible, I tried to use only sources that I thought were both consistent with pre-existing family stories and well documented enough to withstand scrutiny. But there is one source I used that is wildly inconsistent with family tradition, but was so carefully researched that I thought it worth including with the rest of the genealogical data. The source of this data was Jim Farmer.
Jim and I were classmates at North Carolina State University and workmates at the College Exxon service station in the 1970's. Jim was studying landscape architecture and I chemical engineering. Upon discovering that we had a common interest in genealogy (Jim was much more knowledgeable than I) on occasion we would go to the North Carolina Archives in Raleigh and look up old records. We even went out to James and Monteen Cox’s home one evening to eat dinner and talk about the Cox genealogy. But eventually we went our separate ways and lost contact with each other. In December 1994 when Monteen Cox sent out a questionnaire to update the family genealogy, she inquired if I knew what had happened to the young man who had come to dinner at her home years ago. I replied that his name was Jim Farmer, but I had no idea what had become of him.
But during the course of searching the Internet for information on Cox genealogy, I kept running across the name “Jim Farmer” as a source for all sorts of information. Eventually I located Jim’s web page and it contained a wealth of information on the Cox family. I sent a cautious email to “Mr. Farmer” inquiring if he had worked at College Exxon in the 1970's while a student at NCSU. The reply I got started with “You can cut the ‘Mr. Farmer’ stuff out, we pumped gas together.” Jim is now working as a computer security analyst for VISA and I as a lawyer, both light-years removed from what we studied at NCSU twenty-five years ago. But each of us retained an interest in genealogy.
As can be seen from Jim’s genealogical chart, it is entirely consistent with our family stories as far back as the mid-1750's. We both agree that John Cox married Ann Bellamy. Our family stories go no further back than this couple, except for stories that are short on details and long on gaps. But Jim’s genealogy traces our family line back to a John Cox who was born in Sweden in about 1660 and immigrated to Pennsylvania in the late 17th century. While Jim would be the first person to admit that his connections on the trail back to Sweden are not rock solid, he can make a plausible argument using church, census, and land records. However, as Jim has repeatedly pointed out to me, because some of the names involved, most notably John Cox, were so common at the time, it is very easy to mix-up different family lines.
But still, I had two fundamental problems with Jim’s genealogy that had nothing to do with the persuasiveness or reliability of his sources. First, there was never even a whisper of a Swedish connection in our family history. Second, if you only look at the children of Zach Davis Cox, Sr., you will see seven kids with the same identical shade of brown hair and the same identical shade of brown eyes. If ever there was a family without a trace of Scandinavian ancestry, it is ours.
Then I thought about our grandfather, Robert Leighton Cox. He had light blue eyes and family tradition holds that both his father and grandfather also had light blue eyes. Then I thought about my father’s brother, Robert L. (“Uncle Bob”) Cox, Jr., he had red hair and blue eyes. Those blue eyes and red hair can also be found in Uncle Bob’s oldest son, R. L. (“Leighton”) Cox, III. Then I thought about Uncle Bob’s youngest son, Allen T. Cox. With his blond hair and blue eyes, Allen could walk through downtown Stockholm without comment or notice, except for the occasional American tourist who might stop him to inquire if he spoke English and, if so, to ask for directions.
When I look at Uncle Bob’s family, Jim Farmer’s argument that our branch of the Cox family can be traced back to Sweden suddenly seems much more convincing. And think about how everyone in Uncle Bob’s family enjoys boats and water and loves to sail. Maybe we are descended from Vikings. Maybe ten generations after leaving Sweden, the traits of our Viking ancestors emerged full blown in R. L. Cox, Jr. and his family. Of course, we will never know for certain, but it is fun to think of Uncle Bob, Leighton, and Allen standing on the deck of a Viking dragonship, battleaxes in hand, ready to come ashore and plunder whatever comes their way.